Surprises on the Practice Depth Chart

The official depth chart for the 2008 season is far from set, but in practice the players have already been divided up into units and some surprising names have taken the top spot at several positions.
All positions are open.

That statement has been proffered by the Texas coaching staff ever since last season’s disappointing loss in College Station at the hands of the Aggies.

Many questioned whether or not it was just a platitude full of nothing but hot air, but the statement was backed up in the Holiday Bowl, when, for example, Sergio Kindle, Roddrick Muckelroy and Jared Norton trotted out with the ones when the defense took the field against Arizona State.

That trend has apparently continued. If Wednesday night’s practice is any indication, all positions are most definitely open.

There were several surprise names opening with the ones. Obviously, the depth chart has not been officially set, but in practice players are broken down into starters and backups for 11-on-11 team drills and for several position drills as well.

Here are the players who operated with the first team, starting with the offense:

First Team Offense

WR – Quan Cosby LT – Adam Ulatoski LG – Charlie Tanner C – Chris Hall RG – Cedric Dockery RT – Kyle Hix TE – Blaine Irby WR – Jordan Shipley WR – James Kirkendoll QB – Colt McCoy RB – Chris Ogbonnaya

There was a bit more fluidity at wide receiver than at other positions. To start out though, Cosby was at split end, Shipley was in the slot and Kirkendoll was at flanker. This will likely change before the start of the season because offensive coordinator Greg Davis has said that Malcolm Williams is in the lead for the third wide receiver spot behind Shipley and Cosby. Also, at 5-11, Cosby isn’t suited for the split end position. Expect Williams to line up at SE and Cosby to slide over and replace Kirkendoll at flanker.

Ogbonnaya was given the initial nod at RB, but, just as in the spring game, was often replaced by Vondrell McGee. Ogbonnaya worked primarily as a third down back last season and that’s likely going to be his role this year as well, but for now he’s working with the ones.

Quarterback John Chiles also worked frequently with the first unit as a WR/RB. Texas made no attempt to hide the fact that he will be featured frequently this season at positions other than QB. Chiles was, however, exclusively a quarterback when the second team offense was on the field.

There were a few unexpected names, for sure, on offense, but defense is where the most surprises were…

First Team Defense

Power end – Henry Melton NT – Roy Miller DT – Lamarr Houston Rush end – Brian Orakpo WLB – Roddrick Muckelroy MLB – Rashad Bobino SLB – Keenan Robinson CB – Deon Beasley FS – Earl Thomas SS – Blake Gideon CB – Ryan Palmer

Robinson and Gideon are quite clearly the two names that stand out the most.

Everyone on defense is healthy — the only player wearing a green jersey at practice was FB Antwan Cobb — but those two freshmen have managed to work their way onto the first unit. Robinson consistently worked with the ones while Kindle was his backup at strongside linebacker.

At safety, it was already known that Thomas would be one of the two starters, but it was a toss-up for the other starting spot. The first one to land was Gideon, who worked with the ones in practice on Wednesday. He was occasionally replaced by redshirt freshman Ben Wells, but each time the ones replaced the twos for a full team drill it was Giedon who started at the strong safety spot. Whenever the first team defense switched to the nickel (five DBs), redshirt freshman Christian Scott came in as the fifth DB.

The unit where there was little surprise was on the defensive line. Melton is comfortably taking to his role on defense at the power defensive end and Orakpo definitely has gotten the hang of defensive coordinator Will Muschamp’s rush end position, which has the senior defensive end frequently standing up in a LB/DE role.

That’s how the players lined up on Wednesday night, but if the depth chart is as fluid as it seems, expect some new names on Thursday.

[Note: This is not an official depth chart, but these were the players working with the first team offense and first team defense in practice Wednesday night.]